In my continuing series about major flaws that could hinder the Chicago Blackhawks‘ hopes of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions, I look at the performance the Hawks have had against certain teams. These are the teams that the Hawks will need to beat if they want to repeat. The teams in question are among the NHL‘s elite. These are not throwaway games. These are games that test the team as the season goes on. Losing to them could only cause trouble in the playoffs.
The Hawks have yet to beat the Anaheim Ducks, who are currently tied with them in the overall NHL standings, even though they’re listed as first, and the St. Louis Blues, their division arch-rival. They’ve also lost heart-breakers to the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks. Sure, they’ve gotten points against every single one of these teams, but they’ve blown chances to beat them and gain the valuable two full points.
And it’s also relatively bad teams they’ve lost to. The New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs were struggling when the Hawks rolled into Nassau County and Toronto, respectively, only to lose to them. But the thing about these two teams is that they have pretty good players like Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Kyle Okposo. Each of them took advantage of mistakes and gaffes, and made the Hawks pay. And Kessel and Van Riemsdyk are now members of the U.S. Olympic team, so they’re no joke.
So this is important, right? Of course it is! If the Hawks can’t beat top teams, it could cause a huge psychological advantage for their opponents in the playoffs. And when it comes down to points, it’s still just as important. The Hawks may be dominating the Eastern Conference, but the Western Conference is a big problem. There have been so many chances to beat the tops teams in the West, but a lot of them have been blown.
The Hawks need to mentally toughen up and focus on beating these teams once they come to town or when the Hawks enter their barn. It’s these matchups that should get the Hawks’ adrenaline pumping. There is no doubt the Hawks can compete with and beat these teams. The question is “will” they? Again, there is no doubt about that. But they’d better do it now.